February 4, 2013
The Chicago Bears were watching instead of playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but that could change next year now that the team has hired a coach from a rising star among nations: Canada.
Yes, Canada. Boring, eager-to-please Canada is taking Chicago by storm — in a nice way, of course.
It isn’t just the arrival of Marc Trestman from the Montreal Alouettes as head coach of the Bears that heralds Canada’s ascension to the ranks of Chicago cool.
Consider poutine. This homely dish, a tradition in Quebec, has become a popular menu item at some of Chicago’s trendiest eateries. Take a mess of french fries, sprinkle on cheese curds then ladle brown gravy all over it. Embellishments range from foie gras to kimchi. Reactions range from “Yuck” to “Yum.”
Poutine commands attention, like so many imports from the land of moose and maples.
Often ignored and taken for granted, Canada is on a roll. From the U.S. point of view, the tail is wagging the dog in North America, and that’s not so bad. The economic activity helps both countries.
The key to Canada’s success has been avoiding some of the worst mistakes made by its neighbor to the south.
Americans failed to regulate their banks. Canada’s banks are stable.
Americans overinflated their real estate market. Canada’s housing market never went pop.
Americans can’t get their elected officials to straighten out health care and entitlement IOUs. Canada’s got it better covered, having kept its debt and spending at more sustainable levels than the U.S.
Petrochemicals have helped. Canada is experiencing a gold-rush-style energy boom. The oil sands of Alberta contain enough petroleum to rate serious comparisons with Saudi Arabia. Improved drilling technology has made it practical to tap that vast resource. Money is pouring in, despite lower oil prices.
On a per capita basis, Canada is among the world’s most prosperous countries. The Canadian dollar, nicknamed the loonie for the aquatic bird pictured on it, trades at an equal value to the U.S. dollar. Used to be, loonies traded at a substantial discount, but that was before Americans racked up a $16-trillion-plus national debt.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (we know many Americans have never heard of him) has pursued an ambitious trade agenda. He has sought to improve relations with China, enhancing economic ties. He also is expected to ink a free-trade agreement with the European Union this year. That will put pressure on the U.S. to follow suit, as well it should, for the substantial benefits that flow from tearing down commercial barriers and harmonizing regulations.
A lingering frustration is the Obama administration’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, an important cross-border infrastructure project needed to move oil from Canada to U.S. refineries and beyond.
One sticking point recently gave way when Nebraska lifted its objections to the pipeline’s traverse of the state.
Now it’s up to the U.S. State Department to stop pandering to environmental lobbyists and give the go-ahead. Can’t happen soon enough.
While Canada waits, at least its citizens can take solace in the National Hockey League’s return to the ice after a frustrating labor dispute.
Chicagoans who cheer for the resurgent Blackhawks should keep in mind that half the team hails from Canada, as does “Coach Q,” the Ontario-born Joel Quenneville.
Land of the north, Chicago is calling to you. Calling your sesame bagels, smoked meat and Tim Hortons double-doubles. Calling your low rates of gun crime, and universal health care. Calling your oil, especially your oil. We hope some of that Canadian good fortune rubs off on our city.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC